How to Pick the Best Mobile Carrier

Doug Wilson writes:

After watching CES and seeing some of the new tech in phones coming out, I have decided that my run with Virgin Mobile may be over. Service hasn’t been that great. While my friends at school have great connections, I don’t. A lot of the places where I like to hang out just don’t get a good signal from the carrier. This makes it hard to do simple things like browse the Web and receive phone calls.

By switching to AT&T, I’ll need to pay for a new phone and lock myself down for two years. My question to you: do you feel the premium you pay for AT&T service is worth it? The service and price is great at Virgin Mobile, but it is imperative to me to have service wherever I go.

Doug,

Mobile DevicesYou are not alone. Many people face the same situation with their own carriers. This is largely a regional issue, and great service in one location doesn’t always translate over to the next. Even moving a few miles down the road within the same city can dramatically change your experience with a carrier. It’s the nature of the beast, and therefore it’s really difficult to tell you whether or not AT&T will solve your connectivity issues where Virgin Mobile has fallen short.

Here’s what I can recommend. Ask your friends which carrier they use and whether or not they have issues connecting at your favorite hangouts. If you spend a lot of time between school and a particular restaurant or local park, then finding out from them if their signal remains strong in these locations can help you to make a more educated choice.

In some areas, AT&T is rock solid. The same could be said for Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and any other player in the mobile market. The location of towers and general service level in a given area can make all the difference here. AT&T has a very large service area. It’s been the biggest player in the market for many years, and that comes with a few perks.

Having a phone that operates on a GSM carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile can also put you at an advantage when you’re traveling.

As for a two-year contract: You really don’t have to be stuck with one. You can actually save money over a period of two years by buying a phone outright and going prepaid. It’s true, and there are plenty of cases where this has been proven time and time again. Even the iPhone ends up being cheaper for most people if they buy it outright and opt for a prepaid or month-to-month plan since the cost of the subsidy isn’t built in to the monthly rates.

When it comes down to it, no carrier is perfect in every area. People have issues with every carrier on the planet for one reason or another. Often, it comes down to the device and the availability of towers in a certain area. Your best bet is to research your situation locally and make a choice based on what you discover.

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.